October, 2011

Oct 11

Before icons


 I recall that moment I first approached Monument Valley from the highway. Suddenly, in front of me, an iconic Hollywood view materialized. In that thrill of recognition I realized both the logic and the hubris of Hollywood’s decision to use such dramatic scenery as a movie backdrop.

Film westerns don’t do Monument Valley justice. Only moving around the monuments and studying them at leisure and length affords a visitor the proper appreciation for  nature’s ancient winnowing process, the grander geological drama that is present in stone and enveloping sky.

Afternoon Monuments

Painting the changing moods of provocative places, like Monument Valley, is a pleasure and a challenge. At the top of this blog the desert heats up in a late morning scene. An afternoon view follows this, the subject stylized in form and color. This more graphic approach continues in the third and larger work. The three pastels are painted on a pale yellow, olive-green, and black surface, respectively. Each color underpainting helps establish and express a different mood. As with all my work, rich hues mingle with muted colors in a search for visual rewards and emotional meaning.

Evening Monuments

Evening Monuments

Evening Monuments

 View more artwork at Brad Faegre Fine Art

Oct 11

Let the flower paint the flower

 Along SR 39 (detail)

“Let the flower paint the flower.” I first heard that strange and provocative idea one day along a shaded creek in the foothills above the Claremont Colleges. I was a freshman at nearby Pitzer College and the speaker was my instructor and academic advisor, Carl Hertel. Carl was urging his class to think and see differently that day and afterwards. I didn’t absorb the lesson immediately for I was a young man more focused on results than process, but in time that would change.

Carl was a professor of Asian Studies and Art, a relaxed and soft-spoken intellect with a sparkle in his eye. He told me once about his participation in the Defense Department’s experiments with hallucinogenic drugs. Academics and others became willing ‘guinea pigs’ in those studies. The military was searching for a new Cold War weapon and Carl told me he and others were also searching, but in a different direction.

In my last blog I talked about sketching the ancient bristlecone pine tree and how this interpretive activity is, for me, a rewarding exercise in submergence, delving into my subject to know it better. That was what Carl had learned and was suggesting his students explore. 

Now look closely at these drawings and you will see my mind at work in the record of the marks on the page. When done right drawing is a state of concentration that can transport the artist within the subject: “Let the flower paint the flower”, let the tree paint the tree.  That was the point Carl was trying to make that day by the forested creek. We do not possess dominion over this planet and that impulse to create is, at its root, an empathic and healthy act.

 Along SR 39

Both sketches were drawn with a carpenter’s pencil. Taking advantage of the pencil’s 3/8” flat graphite surface to record broad areas of value, for example the shadows under trees and bushes in Along SR 39, or the shadow created by the train engine in Train Stop. For needed contrast and interest I turned the pencil on its edge to produce fine lines and create details for a more dynamic and expressive message. You can see this within the crowd of human gestures walking toward us in the scene of the train station.

Train Stop pencil on paper

 Train Stop (detail)

Examine more artwork at Brad Faegre Fine Art

Oct 11

Drawing on age

The ancient bristlecone pine is a tree one doesn’t forget. Its form is dramatic, its trunk and limbs almost alien. Sun-bleached and wind-whipped through the centuries and millenia (the oldest specimen, “Methuselah” is 4,767 years old), the bristlecone’s form combines awkward bends with graceful, flame-like twists that often terminate in talon-like claws and spikes that threaten the sky.

Using pencil, pen, and the written word, I have been enjoying this latest re-consideration of this ancient creature. Skillful artist’s techniques blend with inescapable chance in these examples, lines and marks sometimes too thick, sometimes too short, too light, too dark, but in the end interpretively interesting. In the mix of deliberation and the acceptance of happy accidents, rewards flow to the creator and observer. 

View more of Brad’s work at Brad Faegre Fine Art